Rachael Leahcar
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Rachael Leahcar

Adelaide, South Australia, Australia | Established. Jan 01, 2010 | SELF

Adelaide, South Australia, Australia | SELF
Established on Jan, 2010
Solo Pop Blues




"Near-blind singing sensation Rachael Leahcar has the voice that moved us all"

NEAR-blind singing sensation Rachael Leahcar has scaled the iTunes Australia download chart.

But the teenager almost gave up her music career after being rejected by Australia's Got Talent and The X Factor.

Now, after captivating the nation on The Voice, she's fending off marriage proposals and stayed up almost all night on Monday responding to her growing army of Twitter supporters.

Rachael, 18, said she was stunned by the outpouring of support that had seen her Twitter following climb from 162 followers to more than 2400 fans in hours. Her performance of Edith Piaf's La Vie en Rose on The Voice scored her 11th spot on the iTunes Australia chart.

Rachael said she was moved to tears by messages from fellow sufferers of the degenerative eye disorder retinitis pigmentosa, which has left her with less than 10 per cent of normal vision.

"There's like a million messages on there," she said. "I stayed up reading them. Mum was like, 'Go to bed'. There were a few people who messaged me saying I have or my daughter has this disability, and I cried with every one I read. It's exactly what I was hoping for."

But it's only due to a relative's encouragement - and the fact her idol Delta Goodrem was on the show - that Rachael decided to try out for The Voice. "My aunty said I should give it a go," she said. "I was on my gap year in between school and uni, and Delta Goodrem was on it. It was meant to be, it was my fate."

At 15, Rachael was turned away by Channel 7's Australia's Got Talent, while last year she didn't make it through the first round of Seven's The X Factor.

"With Australia's Got Talent , they said even if all the judges say yes, you're not guaranteed," she said. "They all said yes, but I didn't get to go through."

Rachael insists she's like any other teen, enjoying the beach and hanging out with friends. The Adelaide singer said since The Voice she'd had little time for romance. "I think I'm a bit busy for love," she said. "I've had a few marriage proposals." - Jessica Leo, Herald Sun

"Perfect Harmony - Rachael Leahcar and her guide dog Ella"

THEY are a perfect couple. Both blonde and pretty, Ella and Rachael are a match for each other in looks. In another life they would be pampered objects of attention. Instead, they are on a tougher path.

The glue of their relationship was tested early on. Rachael Leahcar – Leahcar is her stage name; her real name is Bartholomew - likes to walk around parts of Adelaide whose layout she knows well. Her almost total blindness stops her from going into unknown terrain.

Early last year she was walking around Glenelg’s Patawalonga with Ella - her golden retriever guide dog - at her side. She went further than normal, thinking to take in an extra block but the street went on and on, without end. The sun started going down and it was getting dark. Finally she turned a corner, relieved to think it would take her back home. Instead, she came up against a fence. Turning to go back, she headed left and rounded another corner. Then Ella turned to stone.

“Why has she stopped? ‘Ella, go, go’,” says Leahcar. “She wouldn’t move. So I ended up back-tracking and I called Mum and said ‘can you just come and get me, I have no idea where I am’.”

She directed her mother, Ingrid Bartholomew, by mentally retracing her steps and together they went home. The next day Bartholomew took her daughter back so she could see why Ella had refused to move.

“I was on the edge of the rocks going down to the beach,” says Leahcar. “If Ella had gone forward like I told her, I would have been in danger.”

Part of a guide dog’s training is to recognise hazards their sight-impaired owners don’t see. If they encounter a ditch when they are told to go forward, they stand stock still to alert their owner to a problem. Similarly, if they are told to walk out onto a road where a vehicle is coming – blind people face a particular hazard from the silent menace of electric cars and buses – they resist all entreaties. This incredible bond of mutual trust and co-operation is the essence of the extraordinary relationship between blind people and their guide dogs. They serve their owners but sometimes they know best.

“I trust her, completely, with my life,” says Leahcar. “She’s saved me from a lot of things, not just falling down a cliff.”

Getting Ella, a three year old retriever with a coat of wavy blonde hair to rival Leahcar’s own, was a milestone in the singer’s journey towards staying independent. Ella wasn’t just the runt of the litter; she was the last of seven pups born in Victor Harbour and she came out technically dead. The foster carer gave her mouth to mouth to revive her and Ella was one of only two from the litter who graduated as guide dogs.

Back in 2012 when Leahcar was winning hearts on The Voice, she had lost 90 per cent of normal sight. Diagnosed at six months with the degenerative eye condition retinitis pigmentosa (RP), her vision has progressively deteriorated since childhood. She has a theory that when she was smaller she was closer to the ground so she could see more than she does now. In reality, she knows her eyesight is failing.

“It’s pretty continual, I don’t really know when it will go down again,” she says calmly. “In the past 12 months it has deteriorated again, even in the past six months or so I’ve noticed I’m not able to see things as much as I used to.”

She flew through childhood fuelled by youthful optimism. At school she felt no different to anyone else because she knew no other way. Kids are surprisingly accepting of all sorts of difference, she says, and don’t question unless they are taught to.

“I grew up and thought, ‘yes, this is normal’,” she says. “But as I grew more and lost my sight more, people would start to question me – ‘have you ever thought about going to a different school?’ – and I’d think ‘why would I go to a different school? I’m doing fine here’.”

In high school she realised her fading eyesight was becoming an obstacle. At Brighton Secondary School where she won a music scholarship she began using a white cane, more to alert others than anything else. The biggest hazard was the school bags thoughtlessly discarded by students whose perfect vision guided them through.

“People always left their bags out - if it was the last class they’d leave them out in the hall and along the walls and sometimes I’d trip over them,” she says. “Sometimes there’d be a ladder in the middle of the walkway, or things I’d walk into, so there were a lot of safety problems. Once they had lights turned off in the hallway downstairs and I couldn’t see a thing.”

She hated the cane at first but realised it made sense. Finally, she embraced it. In the classroom she used a laptop and in maths class had a smart board that linked directly to the teacher’s blackboard so she could see at her desk what was going on. For the first two years of high school she had a support teacher sitting with her. Eventually her teachers got used to having her in the class and would read out what they wrote on the board so she could type it up.

All the while her music was evolving. She learnt piano and flute, sang at home and began securing places in voice competitions. At 16 she came first in Colonnade’s ‘Star Life’ competition. In 2009 she won the Dino Prizzi International Festival of Song and performed in Rome and Benevento in Italy. She also began releasing albums independently.

In 2012 came The Voice. Her first song, a powerful rendition of La Vie en Rose, provided one of those spine-tingling moments of television at which reality talent shows excel. Leahcar, tiny and partially sighted in jeans and high heels, is led to the stage by a technician who points her in the direction of the cameras and wishes her luck. Leahcar looks nervous, then she sings.

All of the panel – Joel Madden, Delta Goodrem, Seal, and Keith Urban – look theatrically gobsmacked. Clearly she was a contender. With the song barely a third over, Madden and Goodrem swung around in their chairs. They both wanted her. Seal looked at Urban as if to say, shall we go too? Seal was next and just as she hit the final notes Urban spun around.

Unable to see them, Leahcar explained, “I don’t know if anyone turned around!” The crowd’s response was enough to tell her they all had.

She considered going with Seal but chose Goodrem as her music mentor. Over the next few shows, as the competition heated up and she battled stress and a bad cold, she cemented her position as Australia’s sweetheart. It’s hard to know how much her impaired vision has to do with the gorgeous, emotional package that is Rachael Leahcar. She is petite and fragile with creamy hair and smoky eyes and her singing is so sweet and lovely you want to protect her and see her succeed.

Coming third on The Voice happened almost three years ago and there have been two more bouts of winners since, none as memorable as the first. Before the show even ended she had a recording contract and has since brought out three albums – Romantique which included a cover of Gotye’s Heart’s A Mess, and a Beatles cover album called Here Comes the Sun. She also toured as a support act for Goodrem, who she looks on as a big sister, and went to Italy to perform with Andrea Bocelli’s orchestra. Bocelli, the internationally renowned tenor who was blinded at the age of 12 from a football accident, is an inspiration to her and she sang for him in four languages – Spanish, French, Italian and English.

“That was fun!” she says. “It was a launch of some new technology for people who have vision problems, it was a whirlwind trip.”

Familiarity is the friend of the vision-impaired which makes travelling difficult. In late December she went to the United States to do workshops with voice coaches and sound out potential interest in a career in acting. The emotional connections she makes as a singer could translate onto the screen, she thinks. In Los Angeles she performed at the iPOP! talent scout workshop in front of 300 managers and record companies, hoping to get representation that could lead to work. At this stage, it’s all about the exposure.

“It’s very experimental to see how they respond and we’ll take it from there,” she says sensibly. “Always one step at a time.”

Ella wasn’t able to go, partly because it was such a long journey and also because of quarantine restrictions. But the blonde dog is a fixture onstage and was seen at last year’s Carols by Candlelight and on the catwalk at the Melbourne Cup. Ella doesn’t like being separated from Leachcar and is happy to lie down onstage while her owner sings. The noise took her aback a bit at first but she quickly got used to it. At parties she lies down until she is needed. Once the harness is on, no one can pat her or play because she is on guide duty. Once it’s off, she is playful and laps up the attention.

All the same, Leahcar has to be careful of inviting attention. Television makes you recognisable and if one person in a restaurant pats Ella, it encourages others which can become overwhelming for both of them. Leahcar’s social life is limited but when she does go out at night, she takes Ella or goes with another person.

“A lot of times I take Ella,” she says. “There’s been a couple of 21sts lately and an engagement party that I’ve taken her to.”

The decision to get a guide dog was a landmark in the singer’s acceptance of her future. In October 2013, after participating in the Dark to Light walk – an RSB fundraising walk ‘into the light’ that starts in the predawn – she began to realise how a dog would make her life easier. After her lifestyle was assessed she was matched with a dog that was passive, not too big and responded well to verbal commands. Ideally, she wanted a golden retriever for no reason other than they were good tempered and looked beautiful.

“When Dave my instructor came with Ella for the first time for a match I said ‘that’s the one, that’s my dog’,” she says. “I fell in love with her straight away. I was so lucky, she’s beautiful.”

Training is intense and involves more than two weeks of learning how to care for the dog before even getting her into a harness. Leahcar is totally responsible for her care and as pack leader, even has to eat before Ella does.

“Oh my God, has she changed my life!” she says. “I feel like I have a toddler and I know that I’m not ready for kids yet because I just like my sleep too much.”

From a typical teenager who kept odd hours, Leahcar has had to form a routine where she goes to bed earlier and gets up at the same time each day so she can take Ella outside, feed and groom her, and take her for walks. It is a two-way deal.

“I have to play with her and give her lots of attention and in return she keeps me safe when we go out,” she says. “She’s a completely different dog when she’s on the harness.”

The change is evident in the dog’s body language. Once the harness is buckled on, Ella looks attentive. She is immediately protective and on guard against anything that might signal danger. They are so used to each other Leahcar can’t remember how she managed before Ella came along.


“She makes me feel immediately comfortable with even new settings and I know that even if I get lost, I’ll still be safe,” Leahcar says.

A particularly stressful problem has also been solved. Imagine walking into a picture theatre or a lecture hall and not being able to see which seats are occupied and which are not. Leahcar once sat on someone’s lap at the pictures and while she laughs about it, it left her feeling scared.

“It’s one of those things that people take for granted – finding a chair in a big room full of people,” she says. “When I got Ella it was an absolute relief to know that there could be someone, even just a dog, to help me get around without such embarrassment.”

With Ella only three, and Leahcar about to turn 21, they can expect to be together for at least five more years, and possibly more. Some guide dogs work until they are 12, others stop earlier if they have arthritis. Almost all stay with their owners even when retired.

Ingrid Bartholomew – she can’t help but worry, she’s her Mum – has felt more secure since Ella arrived even though the family has also had to adjust to a dog. Ella can’t be left alone for more than three hours, nor can she go out when it’s over 32 C but her presence brings comfort, even on a simple walk.

“I really didn’t like Rachael going for walks by herself at all,” says Bartholomew. “Because people recognise her a lot too and I thought she was vulnerable. It’s much better with a dog.”

Leahcar still has some tunnel vision and can use a computer by sitting very close to the screen. She is under the care at Flinders University of Professor Jamie Craig, and Bartholomew says a genetic profile is being built to see if they can locate the missing gene that causes her case of RP, a hereditary disease. One other person in Leahcar’s family developed it but not until they were in their sixties.

That might seem unfair but Leahcar has a mature understanding of her disability.

“I used to think that (it was unfair),” she says. “But in my mind there is always a reason for something. I think that if I didn’t have the vision problem I would be a completely different person and I’d be on a completely different road.”

Her connection with music is built on her heightened responsiveness to sounds and her receptiveness to what she hears. It’s not as if one sense is increased by the loss of another, more that she has been forced to use her other senses more effectively, which in turn has helped her music.

“I can’t just look down the road and see a car and cross,” she says. “I have to listen really carefully and make sure there is no car because I can’t trust my eyes. So while you can look, and then hear the car after, I have to hear it first.”

She says –almost unbelievably – that she is lucky to be losing her sight gradually so blindness becomes a series of small adjustments rather than the trauma of darkness falling overnight. Her mother’s long term hope is that technological breakthroughs which could involve replacing sensory receptors, or a specific gene replacement therapy that might halt or reverse the vision loss will occur in time to help Rachael.

“They’ll keep looking until they find the specific gene abnormality causing the problem, which could be a while,” says Bartholomew. “We just have to wait. In the meantime she’s doing all right, she’s happy.” - Penny Debelle, SA Weekend



===Studio albums===
{| class="wikitable plainrowheaders" style="text-align:center;"
! scope="col" rowspan="2" style="width:12em;"| Title
! scope="col" rowspan="2"| Album details
! scope="col" colspan="1"| Peak chart positions
! scope="col" rowspan="2" style="width:12em;"| [[Music recording sales certification|Certifications]]
! scope="col" style="width:3em;font-size:90%;"| [[ARIA Charts|AUS]]
{{cite web|url=http://australian-charts.com/showinterpret.asp?interpret=Rachael+Leahcar|title=Discography Rachael Leahcar|work=''australian-charts.com''|publisher=Hung Medien|accessdate=20 July 2012}}
! scope="row"|''[[Shooting Star (Rachael Leahcar album)|Shooting Star]]''
*Released: 13 July 2012<ref name="shootingstaralbum"/>
*Formats: CD, [[Music download|digital download]]
*Label: [[Universal Music Group|Universal Music]] Australia
| 5
*[[ARIA Charts|AUS]]: Goldhttp://www.aria.com.au/pages/httpwww.aria.com.aupagesaria-charts-accreditations-albums-2013.htm
! scope="row"|''Romantique''
*Released: 26 April 2013<ref name="Romantique_announcement"/>
*Formats: CD, [[Music download|digital download]]
*Label: [[Universal Music Group|Universal Music]] Australia
| 10
! scope="row"|''[[Here Comes the Sun (Rachael Leahcar album)|Here Comes the Sun]]''
*Released: 11 April 2014<ref name="Here_Comes_the_Sun"/>
*Formats: CD, [[Music download|digital download]]
*Label: [[Universal Music Group|Universal Music]] Australia
| 38

=== Singles ===
{| class="wikitable plainrowheaders" style="text-align:center;" border="1"
! scope="col" rowspan="2" style="width:14em;"| Title
! scope="col" rowspan="2"| Year
! scope="col" colspan="1"| Peak chart positions
! scope="col" rowspan="2"| Album
! scope="col" style="width:3em;font-size:90%;"| [[ARIA Charts|AUS]]<br/><ref name="AUS"/>
! scope="row" | "Coming Home Again"
| 2012
| —
| ''[[Shooting Star (Rachael Leahcar album)|Shooting Star]]''
| colspan="4" style="font-size:90%"| "—" denotes a recording that did not chart.

===Promotional singles===
{| class="wikitable plainrowheaders" style="text-align:center;" border="1"
! scope="col" rowspan="2"| Title
! scope="col" rowspan="2"| Year
! scope="col" colspan="1"| Peak chart positions
! scope="col" rowspan="2"| Album
! scope="col" style="width:3em;font-size:90%;"| AUS<br/><ref name="AUS"/>
! scope="row"| "[[La Vie en rose]]"
| rowspan="7"|2012
| 18
|rowspan="7"|''[[Shooting Star (Rachael Leahcar album)|Shooting Star]]''
! scope="row"| "[[Over the Rainbow]]"
| 47
! scope="row"| "[[Hands (Jewel song)|Hands]]"
| 15
! scope="row"| "[[Someone to Watch Over Me (song)|Someone to Watch Over Me]]"
| 41
! scope="row"| "[[Nights in White Satin|Nights in White Satin (Notte Di Luce)]]"
| 43
! scope="row"| "[[Smile (Charlie Chaplin song)|Smile]]"
| 34
! scope="row"| "Shooting Star"
| 31



Rachael Leahcar, Adelaide's angel, captivated audiences globally with her breathtaking performances on the first season of The Voice Australia back in 2012. She finished third, securing a record deal with Universal Music. She has excelled in music ever since, singing with Andrea Bocelli’s orchestra in Italy, touring with Delta Goodrem, performing on stages around Australia and releasing three top 10 albums. 

"I can never sit still!" Rachael says. "Music consumes my entire existence and I wouldn't have it any other way. There's never enough things to do, opportunities to seek out and songs to sing. Music is the love of my life."

Rachael's debut album, 'Shooting Star' (Gold status), shot to no. 5 on the ARIA charts after its release following The Voice Australia where 4.1 million people were watching her audition alone, breaking Australian TV records. Her second album, 'Romantique', held true to her inner-self, containing three original songs. This album debuted at no. 10. 'Here Comes the Sun', the 2014 release, is a Beatles cover album and debuted at no. 1 on the Classical/Crossover ARIA chart.

"When I look back on my life, it looks like I've done a lot. I recently toured an autobiographical cabaret show called 'The Colours of My Life' around South Australia." Rachael recalls. "But it's never enough. I still have so much more to give. The next album always has to be the best one, and the next one I'm working on is no exception."

Rachael is currently working on her fourth studio album. Her attention to detail in her original music is sure to astound fans.

Rachael has entered many competitions over the years. Achieving 1st place in Dino Prizzi’s International Festival of Song preceded a trip to sing on RAI Uno television in Rome at the age of 15.

Rachael has been an ambassador for the Royal Society for the Blind (RSB) since 2011 and loves to help others. "I've always had a very strong desire to change the world for the better. Music is one way I can do this." 

Rachael wants to show the world that she’s capable of achieving anything, despite being 90% legally blind.

Band Members